It’s been just over a year since food scraps were banned from Vermont landfills, prompting a statewide composting spike. The Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) was passed unanimously by the Vermont Legislature in 2012, then updated in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The law aimed to “reduce landfill waste, increase recycling, increase composting, and try to meet the state’s 50% recycling goal,” said Josh Kelly, materials management section manager of the Department of Environmental Conservation.
The recycling law really tightened up in 2020 when Rep. James Harrison, R-Chittenden, introduced the proposal to ban disposal of food waste in landfills, and Gov. Phil Scott signed it on July 1 of last year. The new law led to a surge in the number of residential and commercial compost services in Vermont. “I was out of work last spring. I was reading about that law, and so I started this business based on what I thought would be a residential need,” said Zach Cavacas, owner and operator of Music Mountain Compost, based in Stockbridge. The company offers bi-weekly residential and commercial compost pickup and Cavacas says it has diverted over 40 tons of food waste over the past year.
In its first year, Music Mountain Compost has grown from zero to more than 300 customers. “The growth rate is incredible, and I’ve also been to over 70 towns. There’s a huge need for this,” Cavacas said. “If you compost food scraps that Vermont landfills each year, it would be the same as taking over 9,000 cars off the road,” Kelly said. The Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that the number of food scrap haulers has more than tripled, from 12 haulers in 2012, to 45 in 2021.